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Bihar elections: The alphabet soup in Bihar

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Bihar elections: The alphabet soup in Bihar 2

Citizens of Bihar are reluctant to disclose their voting preference. “Jo jeet raha hai ussi ko na vote denge (we will vote for whoever is winning)” or “yeh raaz ki baat hai (that is a secret)” are common responses across caste and social divide. As the state gets ready for the second and third phases of polling on November 3 and 7, here is a look at the ABCDs — and an unavoidable P — of Bihar polls.


A for alliances


Alliances have always been the key to forming a government in Bihar. But pre- and post-election alliances are made on shifting sands.

The top alliance makers – and breakers — are Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal United ( JDU) and late Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). JDU contested the 2005 and 2010 state polls with the BJP but jumped ship in 2015 to form a government with the RJD. He returned to the BJP-led NDA in 2017 after suddenly finding Lalu Prasad’s party “corrupt”.

LJP has tagged along with parties across the political spectrum. In 2005, it allied with left parties but sided with RJD in 2010. It allied with BJP in 2015 and despite carrying “Narendra Modi in his heart like Hanuman had Ram”, Chirag Paswan has decided to keep the LJP out of any alliance in the state.


B for Bahubalis & Bihar


Elections in Bihar are incomplete without strongmen. Despite JD(U)’s claims of good governance and development, there seems to be no dearth of such people contesting the polls. In fact, no party has shied away from giving tickets to them. While Anant Singh — who is in jail and faces 38 criminal cases — is trying his luck on an RJD ticket from Mokama, Ritlal Yadav, who was released from jail just last month, is contesting from Danapur on an RJD ticket.

In some constituencies, tickets have been given to spouses of bahubalis. Vibha Devi is contesting from Navada, while her husband, former MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav, is in jail. When asked about his crime record, Ritlal, an accused in the murder of Satyanarayan Sinha and now facing Sinha’s wife and BJP’s sitting MLA Asha Devi, says: “I am a bahubali and will remain a bahubali. Charging and exonerating someone is in the hands of the courts.”

In the first phase of polls on October 29, 319 of 1,066 candidates had criminal records. In the second phase, 34% of the 1,463 candidates have criminal records, says the Association for Democratic Reforms. The data for the third phase is not yet available.


C for CM & COVID troubles


The entire BJP machinery is busy highlighting brand Nitish Kumar. But some within the party say the five-time CM has become a liability of sorts for BJP. But they don’t have a state-level leader with mass following to fall back on. They resent that they have to spent a lot of time projecting him as a pro-development person knowing well there is anti-incumbency. Recently, the strategy was changed to seek votes in the name of PM Modi; even Nitish followed suit.

Agencies

Ujiarpur MP Nityanand Rai

The BJP has another problem. Many star campaigners have tested positive for Covid — including deputy CM Sushil Modi, Bihar incharge Devendra Fadnavis, former Union minister Shahnawaz Hussain and Union minister Smriti Irani. The campaigning pressure is on state home minister and Ujiarpur MP Nityanand Rai, who has been making all types of promises. In Raghopur, where Tejashwi is contesting, he promised four revolutions in Bihar — agricultural, industrial, milk and blue revolution.


D for dynasts


No party has shied away from giving tickets to sons and daughters of their partymen, except the BJP, which has avoided giving a ticket to the sons & daughters of a sitting MLA, MP or minister.

RJD and the Congress are ahead in this trend. Some of the prominent names are: Sharad Yadav’s daughter Subhashini Raj from Bihariganj (Congress ticket); Chirag Paswan’s cousin Krishna Raj from Rosda (LJP); BP Mandal’s grandson Nikhil Mandal from Madhepur (JDU); Lalu Prasad’s close aide Jayaprakash Narayan Yadav’s daughter Divya Prakash from Tarapur (RJD); former Union minister Digvijay Singh’s daughter and CWG shooter Shreyasi Singh from Jamui (BJP); Shatrughan Sinha’s son Luv Sinha from Bankipur (Congress); former minister Avdhesh Kumar Singh’s son Shashi Shekhar Singh from Wazirganj; Jitan Manjhi’s son-in-law Devendra Manjhi from Makhdoompur; Sikkim governor Ganga Prasad’s son Sanjeev Chaurasia from Digha (BJP) and RJD state unit head Jagdanand Singh’s son Sudhakar Singh from Ramgarh. Then there are Lalu Prasad’s sons Tejashwi (Raghopur) and Tejpratap (Hasanpur).


P for prohibition


While at least a section of women voters was vocal in welcoming prohibition, which Nitish Kumar imposed in 2016 to control hooliganism and domestic violence, most voters are angry with the sharab-bandi.

The prohibition has led to a boom in bootlegging and killed the traditional toddy tapping business — the mainstay for a large section of Extreme Backward Classes and Dalits. Locals say police harass those involved in toddy tapping as they are seen as illegal liquor vendors.

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